From the December 2008 issue of Entrepreneur

Need a little search engine love? Liam Scanlan, author of The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Websites: A Primer on Search Engine Optimization for Non-Technical Executives and founder of SiteLeads.net, a website consulting and content firm, shares five simple secrets to search engine optimization.

  1. Get a good domain. It's best if your domain relates to your product, advises Scanlan. "If you are selling handmade dolls online, but your domain is acmeproducts.com, that doesn't help the search engine." Don't forget that you can register multiple domain names. To avoid running into issues with search engines that may overlook numerous domains pointed to the same page, direct them to separate landing pages with links that will draw visitors into the site. That can help your rank.
  2. Take care with titles. Scanlan says the biggest and most common mistake that small businesses make in their SEO is having an incomplete title or missing title tag. Most sites are created using traditional HTML editors that don't flag weaknesses in site creation, he says. Plugging in page titles is an easy way to attract search engine algorithms that look for titles on multiple pages of the site. Using the doll example again, it's far better for one of your pages to be titled "Barbie" than "Page 7" if you're targeting the doll-buying set.
  3. Use keywords wisely. Yan Lyansky has bumped up the Google rank of his $3 million company, Downtube, a folding-bicycle manufacturer and distributor in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, by integrating keywords throughout his website. "You can't have 'folding bicycle' [over and over] or people won't read it," says Lyansky, 37. But the company does include those words in product titles and descriptions, page headers and wherever else they can be used without being a turnoff to customers.
  4. Make your contact information obvious. To prevent spam, some companies design their contact information as a graphic so that it can't be picked up by programs trolling for new e-mail addresses. That's a mistake, says Scanlan. "You need to make your contact information easy to find online, especially if you're trying to get your ranking up for a specific region." Opt for text-based contact info instead and embed e-mail information in a hotlink.
  5. Link up. The more relevant links you have between your site and others in your industry, the higher the rank, says Scanlan. Lyansky beefs up his results by building pages that compare the attributes of his bikes to his competitors--and including links to those competitors. He says, "When someone searches for one of our competitors, this helps our site come up pretty high in the rankings."

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans. Reach her at gwen@gwenmoran.com.